GOP urges price-gouging probe on gas
By Mark Preston
With prices nearing $4 a gallon in some areas, each party is working to gain the upper hand on the gasoline issue.
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional GOP leaders on Monday formally called on President Bush to launch an investigation into possible price gouging by oil companies, after gas prices shot up nearly 25 cents a gallon in two weeks.
"Anyone who is trying to take advantage of this situation while American families are forced into making tough choices over whether to fill up their cars or severely cut back their budgets should be investigated and prosecuted," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, wrote in a letter to President Bush.
"Therefore, we believe that federal law enforcement agencies and regulators should take every available step to ensure that all federal laws protecting American consumers from price-fixing, collusion, gouging and other anti-competitive practices are vigorously enforced." (Poll on price hardship)
Hastert and Frist asked Bush to direct the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the rising oil prices and also will request that certain areas be exempt from having to use a more expensive but cleaner blend of gasoline.
One FTC official, though, told CNN that the trade commission can only look into anti-competitive practices and has no legal authority to investigate price gouging.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, dismissed Hastert's and Frist's letter as "empty rhetoric."
"With skyrocketing gas prices, it is clear that the American people can no longer afford the Republican Rubber Stamp Congress and its failure to stand up to Republican big oil and gas company cronies," Pelosi said in a written statement. "With record gas prices, record CEO pay packages, and record oil company profits, Speaker Hastert and the Republican Congress continue to give the American people empty rhetoric rather than join Democrats who are working to lower gas prices now."
On average, consumers are paying $2.91 per gallon for regular self-serve nationally, according to a Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gasoline stations this month.
The price of oil is spiking on the eve of the country's summer vacation season that leads into the critical midterm elections.
Key election issue
With political analysts suggesting that Democrats are within striking distance of taking over control of Congress, each party is working to gain the upper hand on the gasoline issue.
Congressional and White House officials met last week to implement a strategy to address the issue.
Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for Hastert, accused Democrats of contributing to the rising gasoline costs.
"We think the Democrats have a lot to answer for in November since they have voted against Republican-led efforts to lower prices over the past 10 years," he said.
But Democrats are not giving any quarter on energy issues.
"Republicans invited big oil and gas company lobbyists to the table to write the Republican energy bill that President Bush's own Energy Department said would increase gas prices," said Jennifer Crider, Pelosi's spokeswoman.
"Republicans should support Democrats' common-sense plan to empower the FTC to enforce price gouging, roll back the $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies given to big oil and gas companies in the Republican energy bills and develop alternative energy sources."
Earlier this month, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, accused the oil companies of making America's energy problems worse. "In his State of the Union address, we heard the president say that America is addicted to oil. If that's so, then these behemoth oil companies are some of our biggest dealers," Schumer said.
The rising cost of gasoline is just one of many issues facing Congress as it returns from a two-week recess, including a supplemental appropriations bill.
The Senate will take up a $106.5 billion bill intended to help pay for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The Senate legislation is considerably higher than the $92 billion approved by the House of Representatives and suggested by the White House, setting up a potential fight over budget restraint and spending priorities.
CNN's Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.
|© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.